I). One of my favorite pass-times is to read the “Advertiser.” In the SE Massachusetts area, it is a local collection of Lost and Found, needed and For Sale items ranging from diamonds, boats, cars, radios, St. Bernards,and bantam Roosters. In each case, the values differ and so do the rewards. Yet, they all find there way into this one publication and, as they say, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash. Value is, after all, relative!
In response to the criticism of those who would judge Jesus by his company, Jesus is eager to utilize two examples in the local culture that almost everyone would have an understanding of. The first example he draws from is sheep.
A). As we begin to look at this Parable, we need to understand that in Jesus day, to the shepherd, sheep were more than possessions. Sheep were part and parcel of the lives of the herdsmen. In fact, the Scriptures, through various verses, lead us to believe that the “Good Shepherd knows his sheep!” These animals were cared for, day and night, by the shepherd. The 23rd Psalm expands our understanding of this further when it reminds us that the Shepherd “Leads,” “Went before” to protect and defend the sheep from all danger. It was the shepherd that sought out food, water, grazing area; seeing them through life’s struggles into “The green Pastures.”
II). Even those of us who would read these verses from a distance would be inclined to believe that there was a “relationship” between the herd (each animal) and the shepherd.
A). As a youngster I worked, daily, at a local dairy farm. John had about 80 cattle. I can still recall with clarity my first day on the job. I notice that each cow had a numbered tag around his/her neck. I can remember thinking: “why would anyone want to waste time and energy pacing “tags” on those large, lumbering, stupid animals?” However, as time went by, it became obvious that each animal had it’s own distinct “personality.” They, each, through repetition, went into their own stalls, gave a certain amount (pounds) of milk. Some were even known to be more rambunctious than were others. Again, there was a “relationship” that existed between the herdsman and the animal.
B). This is the lesson that the Christ hands down to his critics of that day and to us; God’s “relationship” with us is intended to be just that, a personal relationship. To know provide for us, to care for us, to know us.
Jesus would have us believe that we mean more to God than numbers in a pew, than acts of devotion. Instead, He calls us into an understanding that we can talk (pray), believe that He listens and is responsive to us. Our Savior leads us to believe that God is directing us “through the valleys” to the “green pastures.”
II). But our story, as told by Jesus, also demonstrates that things of value can become lost. Truthfully, like the story in our Scriptures, man too, can become lost and separated from God.
A). The story is told of a farmer who walked down the lane one day stating: “I’ve got a stray.” Asked by a city person: “how do they get lost?” The farmer responded: “They just nibble themselves lost,” said the farmer. “They keep their heads down, wander from one green tuft to another, come to a hole in a fence, pass through it and never can find the hole by which to get back again.”
B). Like the sheep in the story, we have often kept our heads down and wandered from one relationship to another; with children, friends, spouses, loved-ones, and even from God. So many times our hiatus from what is right is brought about bout by seemingly “good intentions: excitement and adventure (have you ever noticed your reluctance to ask directions?), Skepticism, Questioning, and peer pressure.
C).Though most of us have not intentionally wandered from what we know to be right, we, too, often have difficulty discovering our way back. By the time we discover where we are, we are unable or unwilling to return rationalizing that “God would not want us!” Therefore, we continue on.
1).Serving in Maintenance Control at Otis AFB, we were monitoring one of our F-15 fighter’s on day. All of a sudden
the pilot radioed he had a failure in his inertial Navigation system. The Chief of Maintenance, arriving a little late for the entire account asked: “where is he?” The response was: “He doesn’t know where he is, but he is making great time!”
The Christ is quick to respond that our relationship with God is of greater consequence than the distance of our separation or the reason we have wondered off.
III). And so the Christ in His Parable of both the Sheep and the Coin tells of the noticeable presence and measures taken to return the lost/displaced person to the rightful place in relationship with God. The Scriptures reveal God’s dogged determination as he “searches until he finds!”
A). Jesus stated that the first step in this process is to “Seek” out the lost. This word alone tells of the pursuing love of God. The Scriptures quickly point out that Jesus mission is to “seek those who are lost” returning them to the fold. Regardless of the reason, method or route that they were displaced. It matters not to God where we have been; He looks into all the corners, calling, moving, and tearing down the walls that you and I might return.
B). The greater lesson of this Parable might be found in not only our understanding of God’s love for each of us but His expectations of us as we, too need to be seekers. We, the church, needs to be that redemptive community that actively seeks: to create harmony, hope, and welcome to those who have wandered off but would find their way back to God.
C). Like the shepherd who’s arms are full of strength and commitment in his search for the lost and displaced, we, too need to call in words of encouragement, compassions and understanding no matter where those who wander are from or are headed. With dogged determination, we, too need to seek “until” the lost is found. Then, like that shepherd of old, rejoice when the lost is found!
IV). Finally, If we would look at each other with the understanding
that we are God’s Children and like that 500
piece Jigsaw Puzzle, we each have a place on the board. Even if we have 499 pieces of the puzzle, with out all the
pieces, all the personalities in relationship with each other and with God, the picture is not complete. For each of us are distinctive and have a place at the table.
That is what makes us complete beings, that is what helps us to bring vision and Joy into this world. That is what brings God’s Kingdom to fruition.